New game consoles don’t come every day, but this year the PS4 arrived with a collection of games, upgraded graphics, a new DualShock 4 controller and several PlayStation 4 features that set it apart from the PS3 and the Xbox One.
The PS4 or PlayStation 4 as some may call it is a new PlayStation that will likely earn a spot in the hearts of gamers for years and years to come. While we are used to replacing iPhones and laptops every few years, the PS4 is designed to last almost a decade, just like the PS3.
There are many PS4 reviews out there, but this one comes from a first time PlayStation owner, who couldn’t adapt to previous PlayStation controllers and who played Xbox and Xbox 360 games against friends for the last decade. I now own the PS4, Xbox One and Xbox 360 and want to share my PS4 review from that perspective.
Sony’s PS4 comes with a new design that looks very nice with a glossy and matter two-tone look and sharp edges that will fit in with modern HDTVs. There are no special editions or colors yet, so you will need to enjoy the PS4 in black.
While it is smaller than the Xbox One, and some would argue less like a VCR in looks, we buy a PS4 for the look of games on the screen rather than the design of the actual console. There are no component connection options, just HDMI, Optical out, Ethernet, Power and USB ports. There are two USB ports on the front, and an auxiliary port on the back. There is no way to connect an external hard drive to the USB ports. There is no IR port so you can’t control the PS4 with a universal remote for watching movies or TV shows.
One of the PS4 design points that we do appreciate is the slide off panel that lets users replace the hard drive with one of their choosing to add more storage. The PS4 ships with a 500GB hard drive that offers about 400GB of storage for installing games. Every PS4 game installs to the hard drive, with between 30 and 40GB of space required for a game like Assassin’s Creed IV or Killzone Shadow Fall. Users can buy games on disc and then trade or sell them later or purchase most PS4 games on the PlayStation Store on release day for the same price. Games install very fast and I like that I can start playing single player games right away.
The new PS4 software is easy to navigate and there is no lag switching between the various menu and game options. Tap the PlayStation button to go to the home screen from any game or screen. Coming from the Xbox 360 and the Xbox this is a simplistic and easy to navigate design. The PS4 system updates download in the background, just like game updates, both of which allow me to keep playing without waiting and waiting for updates. After years of waiting for updates to play games on the Xbox 360 this is a very welcome change.
There are a variety of PS4 apps available to access entertainment like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus and others. The PS4 may not offer the same level of connected entertainment as the Xbox One, but the essentials are there for most users and those who need more can spend the extra $99 for an Apple TV or similar device. The one major missing feature for some users is the inability to play CDs, but that is not an issue for me. I use the PS4 to play games and occasionally watch a movie. I have three other ways to listen to my music in my living room.
The DualShock 4 controller is new for the PS4. This is larger and more refined than the PS3 and PS2 controllers. I tried to like the PS3 controller in years past, and could never get comfortable playing with the DualShock controller no matter how long I tried.
The DualShock 4 controller is easier to hold and use for extended periods of gaming. It is similar enough to the Xbox 360 controller that I am used to gaming with. Sony did a great job with the PS4 controller. If you’ve avoided previous PlayStations because of the controller it is time to head to a store and take a second look, it is that good.
The DualShock 4 controller includes a new light that developers can link to the game, to flash if you are in trouble or as another signal. There is also a small speaker in controller that can push specific in-game audio to users.
There is also a touchpad on the PS4 controller. I was skeptical of this, but it is a very handy feature. In Killzone Shadowfall this controls your virtual sidekick. Swipe up, down, left or right to change what the drone does. On Assassin’s creed you can tap this to bring up a map. It is much easier to tap on than finding a button. I really enjoy this feature and look forward to how this is incorporated into new PS4 games.
The PS4 controller comes with a Share button that lets users capture 15 minutes of gameplay and share it on Facebook, or stream the gaming live to uStream and Twitch. The PS4 records the last 15 minutes of gameplay at all times, so you don’t need to record before you do something awesome. The live stream can make use of the PlayStation Eye and allows users to comment on your game which pop up on the screen while you play. Personally I find the sharing more useful than streaming as I am not an expert gamer by any means, but the social aspects are a nice touch.
I did not purchase the PlayStation Camera which can interact with the controller for the PlayRoom and other features as I don’t feel it offers enough use for the $60 price. I spent cash on the Xbox Camera that was a glorified webcam and used it four times. I will wait for games to take advantage of this fully before buying one.
The PS4 controller also packs in an awesome feature we wish was standard on every console. There is a standard 3.5mm headphone jack on the controller. You can plug-in the included mono headphone or any headphones you own. This isn’t just for chat either. If you plug-in headphones you can router all audio to the controller. This means there is no need to buy an expensive third-party wireless headset. Just plug-in a nice pair of headphones to the controller and you get chat and game audio all in one. This also means you can turn on a movie and watch in bed with headphones plugged into the controller without bothering anyone.
The PS4 games look very nice on the PS4, and while the difference between Need For Speed Rivals and Assassin’s Creed IV on the PS4 and the PS3 may be small, Killzone shines as an example of what the PS4 is capable of, thought he Killzone Shadow Fall gameplay is not as compelling as most first person shooters.
This time around PS4 gamers will need a PlayStation Plus membership to play games online. The PS4 comes with a 30 day trial and several launch games include a seven day trial to get you started. A year costs $49.99, though there are some deals to be found. As an Xbox gamer I see this as the price of playing a console online and one I factor into the purchase price so there is no complaint here. The PlayStation Plus membership also includes access to free games.
While the launch lineup of games is rather small, and some users may not find graphics that are immensely better than the PS3 or Xbox 360, the PS4 is an investment for the better part of a decade, and we should see games that leverage the new graphics better in early 2014. If you want to wait until then to buy a PS4 you won’t miss out on much, but don’t let talk of a small launch lineup convince you that the PS4 is not worth buying at all.
Overall the PS4 is a great console for gamers and users who want access to great looking games, a vastly improved controller and apps to stream video. The games are ready to play faster than on the Xbox One and the interface is simpler than the tiles used by Microsoft. Sony has a winner, especially considering the $399 price, but will still face a challenge getting Xbox 360 users to switch and leave behind a friend’s list built up over years of online gaming.
For the time being I’m still buying many of my multiplayer games on Xbox One because my friends aren’t buying two consoles and enough are not switching from Xbox to PS4 that I if I want to play them I need to use the Xbox One. This could be the biggest hurdle for Sony to overcome with the PS4.